When the race forecast calls for temperatures 25 degrees lower than the previous year, which was insanely hot, you know it’s going to be a good race. It was 45 degrees at the start of this year’s Mesquite Canyon 30k. And due to a rough racing season, I had no race buffer in my trail racing series, so I had to finish this last and final race if I wanted to podium again.
Knowing that the climb up Goat Camp is absolutely brutal and really a challenge for me every year, I decided to take a gamble this year by using handhelds instead of a pack, given the lower forecasted highs. This being my third year in a row to race the 30k, I was looking forward to the event, but also naturally nervous as it is arguably the most challenging race in the Trail series for Aravaipa Running.
And so, at 6:45am, we set out on the course. The race director had mentioned a slight course change this year where the aid station was moved to make for a safer road crossing. That course change would add about two miles to my race, making it closer to 19.5 than 17.5 miles. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
The first 6 miles or so of the course are relatively untechnical, though somewhat rocky, rollers with not much climbing. So, I settled into a good rhythm. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was going to have a GI issue. Fortunately, there was a restroom at the first aid station and I decided that spending the time to handle said issue, was the right call.
After I got everything squared away, the real fun began as I left the first aid station, manned by one of my sponsors, Squirrel’s Nut Butter, and headed up the gradual climb toward Goat Camp. The lack of a pack to restrict my breathing ended up being the right call, as I was able to run sections I don’t usually run. The constant cross traffic of the 50 mile and 50k racers coming down the mountain, kept me on my toes, and served as a welcome distraction as I greeted friends.
And so I trudge on up the mountain, hoping that I wouldn’t run out of water during the 9 mile stretch before the next aid station. Fortunately, I ended up having plenty with the cooler temperatures. And before I knew it, I was at the top and was able to take my first swig of pickle juice, which tasted amazing. A few Honey Stinger chews here, some pickle juice and water there, I continued on down the steady descent.
Shortly before the first of two remaining aid stations, I started tripping and sliding around on the trail. A family hiking up the mountain was privy to my statement of “Marisa, pick up your feet and get it together”. Fortunately, about this time, a friend came up from behind, and I caught another on the descent, so we were able to chat for a few minutes and share in our collective misery.
After the final aid station, comes a 2.4 mile flat, completely exposed stretch that is mentally the toughest part of the course for me as it’s just boring, and I was absolutely exhausted at this point. I ran behind another girl for 10 minutes, just 20 feet back, completely unable to make a move. Fortunately, she slowed and pulled to the side to let me pass, because just hanging on to her pace was killing me. But, before I knew it, the music was wafting by, and the finish line tents were in view. With the added mileage, I didn’t PR, but was able to finish about 20 minutes slower than the last two years, which is a win for me.
And, after a short trip to the med-tent to have some torn blisters looked at (note to self: no amount of Squirrel’s Nut Butter is going to stop blisters if you wear too-thick socks with your new, narrower trail shoes).
A giant pizza, and lots of chatting with friends, and my Mesquite Canyon experience was over for another year. Fortunately, by the time I sign up for the race next year, I won’t remember just how difficult this race is for me, or how painful those last few miles are.
The points from this race combined with the points from the other two races mean good news for me regarding the trail series. I’ll update this soon once I confirm the podium standings. And now, it’s time for some much-needed rest and recovery after a tough race season. That is, until the Insomniac summer night racing series begins next month.
***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free; Honey Stinger for continuing to fuel my adventures, and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in the brutal sun while I train. And thank you always to my husband, son, and parents, for being a constant support.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”